BY JON ALEXANDER
This time last year, Prime Minister Theresa May was enjoying her honeymoon period after being installed as leader the summer before. Many in the party had high hopes for her, some because they genuinely believed she could step up and lead and many because she was our second female PM – a new Margaret Thatcher perhaps who the divided country so desperately needed to steer the country through rough seas ahead.
Indeed, those in the party not entirely thrilled with her performance in the Home Office or as an authoritarian MP were placated by the polls suggesting she’d win an outright majority and finally deliver the finishing blow to an already crumbling Labour Party. Then came the second ‘longest suicide note in history’ – a manifesto that can only described as a complete catastrophe was unleashed on an astonished public and an equally stunned and unsuspecting party. All May had to do was be quiet on social care and fox hunting – putting them in the manifesto and leaving out numerous actual accomplishments made by the party was a real stroke of genius. Supporters of Mrs May will argue that this was down to Nick Timothy and he was shown the door pretty much before the reality of the situation had sunk in…the slim Tory majority was in tatters, Labour had actually GAINED seats – a few high-profile ones as well – and Tories were forced to rely on a humiliating deal with the DUP to prop a government up.
At this point things looked set – a swift and efficient removal of May, followed by a quickly voted-in successor and a lot of damage control would allow a new leader to take the reigns and revamp a deflated and humiliated party. But this never happened. May’s supporters quickly began arguing she’d secured a high voter turnout, she was still the PM, the party was still in power, albeit severely weakened in Parliament, and imminent Brexit talks were better negotiated by her.
The PR mill went into overdrive and even an appearance on TV claiming to have cried over the election results was thrown in for good measure. It seemed as though our “Strong and Stable” disaster would live to fight another day. Aren’t we the lucky ones?
Fast forward to today, aren’t we the lucky ones?
The official opposition has had arguably its worst week (hard to achieve but here we are) since Corbyn was elected as leader; a video emerged of an election being postponed due to there being a high chance of the wrong outcome, a female member of the party was pushed aside and bullied into complying with the men, Corbyn and numerous others are accused of being spies and darling of the left Brendan Cox has finally admitted to what we all knew – he’s a sex pest – while the charity hideouts of leftover leftists from the Blair and Brown Government get cleaned out.
All this going on and yet our fearless leader is nowhere to be seen, no attempt by the party has been made to capitalise on this save for a few MPs on Twitter.
The mainstream media is hardly reporting what in yesteryear would have been leader-changing headlines. It’s as if the rudderless Conservative Party seem to have lost the fight on these things already.
This comes as no surprise to those of us who have heard the campaign reports from Tory ground forces, “she appears in front and in charge when the cameras are there, then slinks back when they’re gone.” Some sort of presence is required.
So, the question now stands; do we as a party want a dynamic, inspiring and engaging leadership at the top of the party? One that gets significant support from the voters and is enthusiastic about our policies? Or do we want to be a party that people vote for because there are no suitable alternatives, that people won’t engage with because they only voted for us because they had to, not because they wanted to?
For those of us Tories who think the latter is acceptable for now, just remember – there are already talks that Corbyn has got Labour far enough that they can comfortably replace him and take the party into Government. We are all hoping the new leader will be McDonnell or Milne who wouldn’t stand a chance but what if they get their act together and elect someone who can break the deadlock in the polls? What do we do when they start edging over 42% and we start sliding back to the 30’s? Why are we not thinking beyond Brexit?
May’s appointment was always going to end in failure, but the surprising attitude is that of the party – instead of a swift removal they’ve chosen to drag this out and make do. 2022 will be a massive fight. The future is looking somewhat grey at present.